Lord Blencathra ordered to apologise for signing lobbying contract with Caribbean tax haven
The Lords ruling comes after a long-running investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent
A former Conservative chief whip has been ordered to apologise for breaching Parliamentary lobbying rules following an investigation by The Independent and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Lord Blencathra, formerly David Maclean, was found by the Lords Commissioner for Standards to have wrongly signed a contract with a Caribbean tax haven in which he agreed to lobby members of Parliament on its behalf.
Lord Blencathra explained in evidence to the Commissioner that while he had signed the contract with the Cayman Island government, he had no intention of carrying out any parliamentary lobbying on its behalf.
But the Commissioner ruled that the very fact of agreeing to a contract which would involve the “provision of parliamentary services”, Lord Blencathra breached Lords Rules. This prohibits members from accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.
Lord Blencathra had a contract for ‘promoting the Cayman Islands’ The Lords ruling comes after a long-running investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent into Lord Blencathra’s relationship with the Cayman Islands.
In April 2012 we reported that Lord Blencathra's work for the Cayman Islands government included lobbying, and that he had written to the Chancellor, George Osborne, to complain about air passenger taxes on flights to the Caymans as well as approaching MPs who had criticised the islands.
Those revelations led to an earlier investigation by the Commissioner in which Lord Blencathra maintained that he did not lobby Parliament and would not do so.
“None of my work involves lobbying Parliament or seeking to influence either House. I made that clear when I took on the role,” he said.
He also told the Bureau in an email, which was part of evidence sent to Mr Kernaghan: "You have confused lobbying Parliament, which I do not do, with lobbying the Government which I do."
The commissioner subsequently concluded in November 2012 that there was “no evidence that Lord Blencathra exercised parliamentary influence on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government Office in the UK”.
He added: "Equally, no evidence has been presented that he provided parliamentary advice."
But earlier this year the Bureau was passed a copy of the contract between Lord Blencathra's company, Two Lions Consultancy Ltd, and the Finance Ministry of the Cayman Islands government, signed in November 2011, that showed lobbying Parliament was part of the job description.
The contract said the company's responsibilities included: “Promoting the Cayman Islands' interests in the UK and Europe by liaising with and making representations to UK ministers, the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office], members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords.”
Following that revelation, the Standards commissioner instigated a second inquiry. Yesterday it concluded that Lord Blencathra had breached Parliamentary rules and ordered him to apologise.
In a statement, included in the report, Lord Blencathra said while he had not “actually provided nor intended to provide” parliamentary services to the Cayman Islands he acknowledged and “deeply regrets” that he entered into the contract.
“I misled myself into thinking that, since it was understood that I would not be making representations in reality, then the wording did not matter. But words do matter; I was wrong and I apologise to the House for that misjudgement.
“I deeply regret having breached the Code in this way and the embarrassment to the House that I recognise is caused by such conduct. I offer the House my sincere apology.”
But the Labour MP Paul Flynn, who made the original complaint said he had got off lightly.
“I think the committee have been very lenient with Lord Blencathra as he didn't reveal to the first investigation that he had signed a contract in which he had agreed to lobby,” he said.
“The committee would be justified in suspending him from the House and this would be in line with previous decisions. I believe he has got off lightly. The danger of future scandals from lobbying is as serious now as when David Cameron warned in March 2010 that lobbying would be the next major scandal.”
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